Indonesian Muslims hold Friday prayers in shadow of deadly volcano


PENANGGAL: Indonesian Muslims gathered for Friday prayers in an evacuation center on the slopes of Mount Semeru, where thousands of people remain in limbo after a series of eruptions in the past week by the volcano left thousands homeless.
The 3,676-meter (12,060 foot) volcano erupted spectacularly on Saturday, sending a towering cloud of ash into the sky and dangerous pyroclastic flows into villages below.
In the Penanggal evacuation center, Abdul Ghofar joined several hundred others displaced by the disaster for Friday prayers in a makeshift mosque set up using a tent in a field.
“I usually pray at my village … I can’t believe this is what has happened to me,” said Ghofar, 47, who recounted hearing a loud boom on the day of the eruption before a black cloud of ash turned everything dark in his village of Curah Kobokan.
Ghofar, who was working as a food vendor, thought he and his mother might die, but then some light appeared in the sky and they managed to flee without any possessions.
He said his cousin, who worked as a sand miner near the volcano, was still missing and he was now waiting to be relocated.
At least 43 people have died and hundreds have been injured since the eruption, while more than 6,000 people were evacuated, with many now uncertain whether they will ever be able to live in the area again.
In a field kitchen set up at the evacuation center, volunteers chopped vegetables and cooked rice and eggs, to place in around 2,000 food parcels a day for the people sheltering in the area.
Sukur, 70, who uses one name, was among a number of the displaced sheltering in a tent at the center this week.
“In this situation we feel happy as well as sad. Happy because we are gathered with many people, but sad because we remember now we don’t have a house,” said Sukur, who despite the difficult conditions was dressed immaculately in a blue batik shirt and a traditional Indonesian peci hat.